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Niverville Welcomes New Female Hockey Teams

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Ginger Fast Crop
Niverville's own Ginger Fast scored both of the U18 Female Selects' inaugural goals. Scott Stroh

Since the first sheet of ice was laid down in Niverville’s new CRRC this August, the arena has hosted a number of different programs—from hockey schools to minor organizations and recreational leagues.

One new program making its home in Niverville is the Eastman Selects U18AAA female hockey club. The Selects belong to the eight-team Manitoba Female Hockey League (MFHL), which is the top developmental league for female hockey players aged 15-18 in the province. The league’s aim is help athletes gain exposure at the collegiate and university level.

Each MFHL team is comprised of players who come from local minor hockey organizations in its region. Eastman is rostered with players who have come up through the minor hockey system in southeast Manitoba, a region that stretches from the U.S. border in the south to Kenora, Ontario in the east, and the southeast shores of Lake Winnipeg.

The Selects, now entering their fourteenth season with the league, have played out of the arena in Ste. Anne since 2015.

Eastman played their first official game at the Niverville CRRC on Saturday, September 4, as they hosted the Pembina Valley Hawks in an exhibition match. Pembina Valley, who for the most part had iced their final roster, played against a split squad of returning Selects players and new registrants looking to make the team.

The Hawks took an early 3–0 lead, but the Selects were able to find a new gear later in the game, scoring a pair of goals and skating away with a close 3–2 loss to their southern rivals.

But there’s another regional team for women calling Niverville home. In addition to the U18 Selects playing on local ice, so are the U15 Selects.

“Female hockey continues to grow and flourish with both Selects programs,” says U18 head coach Trevor Hildebrand, who’s in his first year as bench boss after taking over from Bill Bram. “Getting things started in Niverville has been really exciting for me and our entire coaching staff on a number of fronts. Hopefully we’ve put the worst of the pandemic behind us, and of course it’s exciting for everyone—players, parents, staff, fans, officials, etc.—to be back in the rinks in some sort of normalcy.”

Hildebrand adds that it’s particularly exciting for him to have the opportunity to coach many of the team’s players again, having previously been given the chance to coach many of them at the U15 level, and see them further develop.

He’s also excited about the move into the brand-new facility.

“It’s pretty special to be able to move into the new facility in Niverville and call the new CRRC home,” he says. “This facility is a one-stop shop, so to speak, for the program and will enable us to hold all of our team programming under one roof. The entire staff has been outstanding and very welcoming, making the transition very easy… We also have some great local talent right here in Niverville and nearby communities on both the U15 and U18 teams.”

People don’t have to look very far to understand the importance of the female hockey programs in the province. Eastern Manitoba’s very own Jocelyne Laroque, who hails from Ste. Anne, is a pinnacle of women’s homegrown hockey. Laroque has won two Olympic medals, including a gold at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, and eight World Championship medals, two of them being gold. She’s also helped her University of Minnesota-Duluth NCAA women’s team win two national titles, first in 2007–2008 and then again in 2009–2010.

Speaking of which. Ste. Anne’s Minor Hockey Association has the distinction of also having developed Bailey Bram, daughter of former Selects U18AAA head coach Bill Bram.

Bailey played in the NCAA for Mercyhurst University, capturing the Rookie of the Year award for her conference in 2007. She was a member of Canada’s gold-medal-winning team during the 2011–12 Women’s World Championships.

Both Laroque and Bram have had great careers in the now-defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Laroque hoisted the trophy for her Markham Thunder in 2017–18, and Bram for her Calgary Inferno in 2015–16.

Be sure to head down to Niverville’s own CRRC to capture both the U15 and U18 Female Selects in action.

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Citizen Poll

Thank you for participating in the Name Your Team initiative for Niverville's new community-owned MJHL hockey franchise, set to begin play from the CRRC Arena in the 2022-2023 season!

Those who enter will be eligible for prizes, including game-day tickets. We appreciate your entry! Note: if there is a specific meaning or reason for suggesting this name, please share it in the comments box.

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